Review: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do is an ambitious, engaging, and emotional memoir which tackles the complex history of Vietnam and immigration through the story of Thi Bui’s family. At turns a record of the complicated history of Bui’s family coming to America and a look at the complex relationship of children to their immigrant parents, the overarching story is about the search for a better and stable future while still dreaming of the promise of the past.

Bookended by the birth of Bui’s first child, The Best We Could Do traces her awakened desire to better understand her parents’ history, and by extension, her own. Bui looks at the expanse of her families history, from her parents childhoods through their life in American, with an unflinching gaze that empathically illustrates the realities of her family’s life and history. Since Bui’s point of view is always used to filter these stories, the portrait that emerges is also a reflection on how a person’s life impacts their decisions as a parent. Through her journey we come to understand the hardships of not only immigration, but of the chaos of growing up and having a family in a war torn state.

Skillfully illustrated, the artwork in Best is evocative and emotive. By putting readers firmly in the middle of the action, it adds a deeper dimension to the stories than they might have alone. When Bui writes of her father’s childhood experience hiding from French forces attacking his village, the reader experiences his isolation and fear along with him. Situation after situation, both harrowing and joyful, are shared this way.

Simply put, The Best We Could Do is a must read. At a time in US history where people have grown to question immigration and the humanity of immigrants, this memoir should be put into everyone’s hands. What better way is there to understand the motivation behind people who choose to immigrate and the kind of situations they face both in their home country and once they arrive in the United States?

Disclosure: This review is based on an ebook version of the memoir provided by Abrams ComicArts through Netgalley.

RATING: ★★★★★ 5 STARS

The Best We Could Do written and illustrated by Thi Bui
Published: March 7, 2017 by Abrams ComicArts
Ebook, 336 pages
ISBN: 1419718770

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